So another year is all over. Soon you’ll get a podcast with all the team waxing lyrical about everything that happened, but I wanted to take the time to write in words about my very first time attending Eurovision as accredited press. Sadly I wasn’t able to be joined by my loyal colleagues Sara and Nicolas, so it was quite daunting to have to do all the hard work on my own…
How it all started
I was supposed to be arriving in Vienna on Monday the 18th, but I saw so many people on my social media sites posting pictures of the press centre on the Sunday before rehearsals started and saying how excited they were that I decided at the very last minute that I was going to get the next flight out of here. The next day I sheepishly showed up at work asking to extend my week-long holiday to two, which they agreed, changed flights and frantically tried to play Luggage Tetris with a small cabin suitcase.
By Tuesday afternoon I arrived in the press centre carrying around all my luggage just as Albania was rehearsing. I found the ESC Insight team who made great table-buddies the whole two weeks and helped show me the ropes in how press centre culture works. I dug into the free “posh Malteasers” and wafers and got very acquainted with the local Almdudler drink, which is basically the New Zealand drink “L&P” with an Austrian name slapped on it.
Learning the ropes
First thing I learnt in the press centre is that the “meet and greet” is basically a battle against other press to get a photo with an artist, some were easier to grab hold of than others depending on the size of the crowd, it was like the Eurovision Hunger Games, you had to shove back as many people as possible before that country’s Head of Press told you “no more pictures, bye!” before security whisked away the artist through a door behind them.
I also learnt that some countries don’t give everyone promo stuff. If you really wanted everything from every country, you give their Head of Press a card with your pigeon hole number then hope their goodies show up for you.
I also learnt that in the first week, you spend so much time inside watching rehearsals and doing whatever for your site, you don’t have time to go around the city being a proper tourist. I got some time in the second week wandering around the city with my friends and trying to avoid the pouring rain (seriously, when I couldn’t go outside it was nice and sunny, as soon as I had time to go out with my friends the weather was horrible, not fair!).
Getting caught in the bubble
I got photos with most artists, and said thanks to them before wishing them luck afterwards. The funniest one has to be at the Nordic Party when I got a photo with the lead singer from Denmark’s band, where he was so drunk that he wandered around like a zombie, and even looked like one in the photo. The proudest one was when I beat the uber manic crowd to get a photo with Måns, and even had a quick chat with him in Swedish;
Me – “Tack så mycket, och lycka till!” (Thank you so much, and good luck!)
Måns – “Tack för det!” (Thanks for that!)
As usual with Norway, I got a question at their meet and greet and squeezed in some Norwegian by telling them that “din første prøve var veldig, veldig kjempeflott” (your first rehearsal was very, very wonderful). I even met up with their delegation a few times, I told Vivi Stenberg that Norway has been my favourite every year since 2013 which she was very happy about. After the final I found her outside the press conference room and gave her a big hug, and we both said how happy we were that Norway got a third consecutive top 10. It really was nice meeting them, as a Norwegophile I felt like I had a stronger connection with the country because of that, I feel that even if I don’t like their song next year I will always support them no matter what.
I wasn’t the only one who got super friendly with a delegation, my Danish friend had Cyprus as her favourite and hung out with their delegation a few times and kept telling us in the apartment about how fun it was and how nice John was. I kinda wish I got to speak to him more to be honest given how much she was talking about him, I only got to meet him twice; once at the meet and greet where I got a photo and told him how amazing his first rehearsal was, which gave him a massive smile on his face and he almost seemed surprised that I was being THAT complimentary, and the second time where I congratulated both him and of course the Norwegians after the press conference for Semi 2…
Speaking of which, I got so many messages from friends after my infamous appearance at the press conference for Semi 2, y’know, the one where I was so excited that Mørland interrupted me saying “remember to breathe!” followed by the whole room laughing. All of the feedback for that moment was complimentary, I didn’t get a single message saying what an idiot I was which is what I thought EVERYONE was thinking about me at that moment. No hard feelings Kjetil, I know you meant well!
One thing that happens when you get caught in the Eurovision Bubble is that after watching each country rehearse dozens of times you begin to like all of them, even the ones you hated previously (except for Italy of course, nothing could make me like that song). Once you meet the acts and see what they are like in person you begin to want everyone to do well, and even become slightly surprised when some of them don’t, even though the you from two weeks previously wouldn’t have been.
By the time we got to the end of the first week the tiredness was finally catching up to me, the fact that I was allowed into the arena and was running back and forth to film clips certainly didn’t help. It got to the point where the finalists had their first rehearsals on the Sunday and I fell asleep TWICE that day. The first time I fell asleep was during Austria’s rehearsal, and got the worst wake-up call of my life when the Spanish fans were screaming as they started rehearsing, and as I got back to my seat they screamed right in my ear clearly trying their best to make me deaf. I seriously wouldn’t recommend that to anyone.
The final night
I didn’t get a ticket for the final night, so I watched it in a packed press room. I was used to watching the contest on my own so it was great to crack jokes and react with everyone else for a change. I remember after the UK’s performance, me and Ewan from ESC Insight just stared at each other with the biggest “oh crap” faces imaginable. People were cheering so loud I didn’t notice any booing towards poor Polina apart from one incident about halfway through the voting, at which point I was really annoyed. I was in the actual arena during the first semi and she didn’t get a single boo, in fact she got a lot of cheers that night, and then all of a sudden this happens, and the poor woman was in tears the whole time, a lot of fans seriously need to grow up and I’m not sorry for saying that.
The voting was incredibly sick, when Russia was leading at the halfway mark I was seriously going “oh crap, better get my visa for Sochi sorted first thing tomorrow”, and when the tide turned in favour of Sweden everyone in the press centre was screaming “oh my god” and going crazy, none of us could believe it was happening like this. As Måns performed his winning reprise all of us were jumping around singing his song, before I had to leave and give a sad farewell to my new friends.
I met my other friends in the Fan Cafe and partied until the small hours of the morning, where we had our post-mortem chat. I was really happy about Norway’s 8th place, we all tried to cheer up our Danish friend after Cyprus’ result (seriously, they were robbed), our Swedophile German friend was the happiest of us all, and we all expressed how excited we are about going to (possibly) Stockholm next year. I cried as we said our final goodbyes and slept the whole way home, finding it hard to believe it was all over.
What I will do better next year
1) Book my flights and hotels for two weeks instead of one.
2) When speaking to my favourites in a press conference, remember to breathe!
3) Don’t show people my Twitter timeline during the final, some of my friends’ opinions may upset some people.
4) Print business cards for my pigeon hole number so I don’t look like a total amateur shoving ripped pieces of paper to heads of press.
5) Try and speak with the artists more outside of getting quick pictures with them, they’re not scary!
6) Make sure Nicolas and Sara are with me, so they can have as much fun next year as I did.
In summary, thank you to the countless people I’ve met over the last fortnight (you all know who you are!), it was truly an experience I will never forget, see you all next year!